Great Teachers I have known

Since I own and have paid for this website, I wanted to take a moment to thank a couple of the great teachers I have been blessed to have known in my life.

Arden F. Welte

Arden Welte

Arden F. Welte ( November 17, 1926 - September 1984 )

In high school I took AP Biology with Mr. Arden Welte at Mayo High School in Rochester, Minnesota. Mr. Welte was an extraordinary man - he was a tree farmer, a biologist, and a demading teacher with a wonderful sense of humor. He gave a test every Friday, and other teachers complained to the Principal that Welte students were studying for the tests in their classes. One Friday, he gave everyone a piece of paper and said, "write down what grade you think you will get today based on how much you studied." After we had written down our grade (some jokingly writing down "F") Mr. Welte said that we knew how much we had prepared, and had just graded ourselves for that week's test. You could make up a poor performance, or get extra credit, by visiting his tree farm and learn about the various trees. Beyond that, Mr. Welte was a kind and generous man, and a great great mentor.

Another interesting story, I didn't really take any biology classes in College, but still had to take the MCAT to get admitted to medical school. I got a 13 (out of 15) on the Biology section placing me in the 90+ percentile, having really only taken AP Biology with Mr. Welte in High School. He was that good.

Sadly, Mr. Welte died of prostate cancer in September 1984. I think he would have really liked the internet.

Rudolph Weingartner

I went to college at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois. The Dean of my College was a lovely man named Rudolph Weingartner. My first two years at Northwestern I was a very hard core Chemistry major, and I took nothing that first two years really but Chemistry, Math and Physics. Towards the end of my Sophomore year I was named as the Chemistry department's delegate to the Student Advisory Board of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. That spring, Dean Weingartner had a party at his house, and I was invited.

When I arrived, quite nervous, at the Dean's house, I attempted to blend into the woodwork. After I had hid for a bit, Dean Weingartner came up to me and said (as I remember it),"you're Jeff Sedlack. I've been wanting to meet you." I was leery and nervous, but said hello. Dean Weingartner went on to tell me, "I took the liberty of reviewing your academic record, and I must say it is very impressive."

I nervously thanked the Dean, and waited for the "but"

Dean Weingartner went on, "very impressive, indeed. But here at Northwestern, we want our graduates to be well rounded, well educated, young men and women."

"yes Dean," I replied.

"Well," the Dean continued, "To that end, we have these things we call 'distribution requirements,' and I notice that you have taken nothing but Chemistry, Math, and Physics these past two years, and if you continue like that you will not be well educated,and will not graduate "

"yes Dean," I replied, strangely happy. He was extremely gracious about the whole thing. "Do you have any suggestions?"

"I'm glad you asked," the Dean replied. "This Fall, I want you to take History B10-1, the History of England with Lacey Baldwin Smith. I think you will like it." We made some other small talk, I forget about what, but I remember his kindness and grace.

Well, that Fall I took Professor Smith and the History of England…. what else could I do?

Amazon List

The class was a revelation. Professor Smith was a marvel. His lecture on the Battle of Hastings was the single greatest lecture I have ever heard about anything. I dropped my plans for the four year Bachelors-Masters program in Chemistry, and took History, Literature, Writing and Philosophy for my remaining two years at Northwestern. I have remained a devotee of English History, as well as Medical history, and I will always be grateful to Dean Weingarten for actually caring about the education, and the worldview of a humble Northwestern Sophomore. I was never really able to thank him adequately, and so, thank you Dean Weingartner! By the way, Dean Rudolph Weingartner has written an extraordinary autobiography of his extraordinary life, "Mostly About Me: A Sixty Year Ride through the World of Education."

Roy Peterson

RoyRPeterson2 mug

Professor Roy Peterson (1924-2010)

My third teaching hero is Professor Roy Peterson, the Anatomy Professor at Washington University in Saint Louis. He wore Birkenstocks with white socks in the Anatomy lab. He was kind and patient, and a brilliant dissector. He would have made John Hunter proud. I liked him so much I took a six week elective with him at the end of my fourth year that together we entitled "Surgical Anatomy," where he took me through dissections of major operations on the cadavers. I don't know if anyone ever did that before or since, but it has been one of the single best experiences of my career. Again, John Hunter would have been proud.

At the end of the first year, the Medical Students at Washington University put on a variety show. Our show stopping number was a tribute to Professor Peterson, entitled "Roy," that we sang to the Broadway tune "Mame."

"You made the muscles easy learn, Roy.

The Cranial Nerves became no concern, Roy.

You came, you cut, cross-sectioned, and everybody came to watch you work.

You never shunned a question. Even when the asker was a jerk…"

Russell J. Nauta

Nauta color

Russell J. Nauta, MD

In 1984 I was interviewing for surgical residency programs. I was a little intimidated by the surgeons I met all over the country. I had come from a program at Washington University that was very "old school," tough, demanding,and unkind. I went for an interview at Georgetown, largely, frankly because I had read James Michener's Chesapeake, and thought it would be cool to be in that area.

One of my interviews was with a (then) young surgeon, Russ Nauta, only ten years older than me. He's a big man, but essentially kind. Of all the surgeons I had met across the country he was the only one who seemed to take an interest in me as a person, and what kind of surgeon I would become. Towards the end of our allotted time, I will never forget that he took out his business card and said, "I don't knnow if you will come here or not, but it has been great talking to you. Take my card and if you ever feel like talking, about surgery, about anything, give me a call."

I've kept that card. I went to Georgetown because of him, and I got great training there. Dr. Nauta was a mentor to me there my five years there, and even took me to the liver surgery meeting in Amsterdam in my third year of residency.

Years later, when I was interviewing residency candidates, I tried to remember and follow Russ Nauta's example from that meeting, nearly thirty years ago.

Brendon Hirschberg

brendon hirschberg

Brendon Hirschberg, M.D.

Finally, in my first year out of Surgical Residency, I was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and Desert Storm happened. Then I got incredibly lucky. I was able to remain at Camp Pendleton, and a Surgeon from Flagstaff, Arizona, Brendon Hirschberg who had been called up as a reservist to staff the hospital with me. We got to work together forten months.

Bren was a great teacher and mentor. He taught me how to think like a surgeon, to be confident, and to use basic principals to figure out what to do next. I remember once having questions about an operation I was doing, a common phenomenon in new surgeons. I called Bren and asked for help. He came in, looked over my shoulder, and before I could get more than a few words out, he very kindly said, "you're dong just fine. Keep it up."

Bren also knows how to lead an extraordinary life. He once spent a month, "Searching the valley of Mexico for the perfect Margarita." Bren has been my professional role model for 22 years now. A wonderful man and a great surgeon, and I thank him.